THE head of the Asian Development Bank has urged Washington to remain engaged with Asia, days after US President-elect Donald Trump vowed to scrap a trans-Pacific trade pact.
Takehiko Nakao told reporters on Thursday the incoming US leader had previously talked about the importance of the “trade relationship.”
He added, “it’s important for the United States to continue to engage in Asia and that is good for the Asian region as a whole.”
The US-led Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), promoted by outgoing US President Barack Obama as part of his Asia pivot, liberalizes inter-regional trade among 12 countries but Trump has charged it would cost the US jobs and hurt American businesses.
The TPP is Obama’s signature trade initiative, which still needs approval from the Republican-dominated Congress.
The president-elect said earlier this week he would ditch the TPP on his first day in the White House. In a short video message on Tuesday, 70-year-old property tycoon Trump called the TPP “a potential disaster for our country.”
Nakao cited the ASEAN Economic Community as well as the China-endorsed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as regional trade arrangements that could still prosper even if the TPP fails.
“There is a strong case for certain regional arrangements,” he said.
Nakao defended open trade, saying it had helped Asia develop in recent decades.
“We should look at how the world has become a better place for many people from many countries,” he added.
Critics have said a US withdrawal would make the TPP meaningless and amount to Washington abdicating its leadership role in the region.
No WTO pullout yet
In Geneva, the head of the World Trade Organization said Thursday he had received no indication the United States would move to leave the WTO under Donald Trump’s administration.
“I haven’t had any indication from anybody that that could be the case,” WTO chief Roberto Azevedo told reporters.
During his campaign, in which he repeatedly attacked global trade deals, President-elect Trump called the WTO a “disaster” and said the US would “pull out” of the Geneva-based body if Washington was not able renegotiate the rules on major issues like tariffs.
But Azevedo stressed it was premature to speculate on what Trump might do in office.
“I just don’t know what the trade policies are,” Azevedo said of the incoming administration, adding he had not spoken to Trump personally since the 70-year-old real-estate mogul’s shock election win on November 8.
“I told them I am available whenever they are ready to have a conversation,” Azevedo said, indicating he has had contact with the Trump transition team.
The WTO boss further said he was reluctant to make assumptions about the new administration “on the basis of headlines” and Trump should be given an opportunity to assess the issue of global trade “from a broader perspective.”
But, Azevedo conceded that huge numbers of people worldwide had come to see global trade as a job killer even though such perceptions were not supported by evidence.
“Trade does have sometimes a disruptive effect,” he said, but warned against wrongly diagnosing the impact of global commerce.
Citing WTO research, he said two in 10 job losses may be caused by international trade, but the remaining eight losses were the result of new technologies replacing human labor.